Describes a research survey approach used to understand how local workforce investment boards serve youth with disabilities, identifies the challenges that may impede services, and  shares recommendations for the Department of Labor to consider as it relates to support and incentives that influence local decisions.

“As the country continues to emerge from the Great Recession, the challenges identified with youth unemployment remains particularly complex. The road to employment and economic self-sufficiency is considerably steeper for youth who face some type of physical, sensory, cognitive, mental health, chronic health, or other disability. Title I of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) mandates the provision of workforce development services…to both youth and adults, including to those with disabilities…Abt Associates was retained by the U.S. Department of Labor…to examine the extent to which WIA’s Local Workforce Investment Boards (LWIBs) are providing services to youth with disabilities through their American Job Centers (AJCs) and network of service providers. In addition, the research seeks to identify factors that may be challenges to the provision of these services.

The cornerstone of this research is a survey of the universe of LWIB Executive Directors…The survey data were gathered via an on-line survey that was completed (or partially completed) by 69 percent of the Executive Directors or their designees. In addition to examining general perspectives and challenges in serving youth with disabilities, the survey examines how LWIBs: 1) identify participant needs and customize services; 2) build staff capacity to better serve this population; 3) integrate activities and funding to provide an expanded resource base; 4) reach the out-of-school population of youth with disabilities; and 5) provide employment and community service opportunities” (p.1).

“The following five research questions [formed] the foundation of this research initiative.

• What efforts have Local Workforce Investment Areas (LWIAs) made to improve their ability to identify and respond to the distinct service needs of this population?

• What efforts have LWIAs made to leverage resources and create partnerships to serve this population?

• What efforts have Local Workforce Investment Boards made to enhance staff capacity to serve youth with disabilities?

• What efforts do LWIBs make to reach and serve out-of-school youth with disabilities?

 • What efforts LWIAs made to provide work and community service opportunities for youth with disabilities, including partnerships with employers?” (p.13)

(Abstractor: Author)

Full publication title: Services for Youth With Disabilities Under Title I of the Workforce Investment Act: Results From a Survey of Local Workforce Investment Boards

Major Findings & Recommendations

“According to the most recent Workforce Investment Act Standardized Record Data (WIASRD), approximately 14 percent of the youth served through WIA have some type of documented disability…Very rough estimates provided by Local Workforce Investment Boards (LWIBs) in the survey suggest that the prevalence of youth with disabilities in the service population is twice the level that is officially reported in WIASRD. Within this rather complex planning and service delivery environment, the survey conducted for this study provides important insights about serving youth with disabilities under WIA. First, there are distinct programming philosophies. The majority of LWIBs (72 percent) acknowledge that they view youth with disabilities as a natural component of the larger youth population and distinctions are generally not made when delivering services. Nonetheless, a distinct minority (28 percent) respond that they consider youth with disabilities a unique service population that requires proactive targeting and customization of program resources. Second, regardless of service philosophy, the majority of LWIBs have dedicated some level of resources to enhance their capacity to effectively serve youth with disabilities… Third, many LWIBs also make proactive efforts to expand their resource and stakeholder base through the formation of partnerships with other organizations…These partnerships can be instrumental in contributing to a program strategy that actively supports youth with disabilities” (p.52). Based on these findings, the authors “forward the following recommendations for the [Department of Labor’s] consideration. • Seek greater insight into the size and mix of the youth with disabilities population. • Maintain flexibility in establishing performance standards. • Sustain efforts to build staff capacity around both basic and advanced topics regarding serving those with disabilities. • Adopt a broader perspective on the issue of ‘access.’ • Emphasize co-enrollment in both WIA Youth and WIA Adult programs to expand services to youth with disabilities. • Continue to promote cross agency coordination across all youth services. • Seek trial work opportunities, particularly with the more ‘reluctant’ employers. • Continue to examine the economic incentives of hiring youth with disabilities. • Expand partnerships with the mental health community” (p.7). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)